It would seem that spring has finally sprung and the first indications that we may be out of the misery of that long, cold winter are finally tippie-toeing their way up the garden path. Not that I’ve seen much of it as I greeted the first sunshine of the new-ish year from the puddle of sweat and snot that was my sofa in the potting shed, surrounded by an industrial box of tissues, (for my nose) a litre of Benylin, tubes and packets of lozenges of varying flavours and a collection of Vicks nasal inhalers which, at a moment’s notice, I could stuff up one nostril or the other , releasing its sweet menthol vapour up and into my hooter.
Yep, I’ve been laid-up all weekend with one of those colds I used to blame on air-conditioning in various newspaper and magazine offices, on the snivelly little herberts who I would encounter during a day in the office, or the mucus-sprinklers on the train home in the evening.
This time however, as I’ve not set foot in Fleet Street for a few weeks, I cannot blame anyone for my illness except Allah, The Incumbent or the flock of pigs in the sty outside the potting shed window. But since none of the above either exist, have a cold or have come into close contact with me recently (any order you like) I am an Assange short of a fall-guy.
I am assuming, of course, that what I have been suffering from is merely a common cold. There could be other, more worrying explanations. January is traditionally the time of year when I tip “Behemoth” on my Timothy Whites‘ bathroom scales and when I decide to deprive myself of all things tasty and goodly in an attempt to lose the odd 50 pounds. It’s my own variation of the Atkins Diet which has worked so well for me in the past but which also, it has to be said, has led me to my current position of staring down the wrong end of 16 stone. Consequently I’ve undertaken to abstain from anything in the fridge which fills me up, satisfies my palate, or looks vaguely interesting. All except anything that comes in tins or bottles with Alc 5.0% Vol written on the side, of course. In short I’ve been starving myself and it’s left me, well…starving. Thus I’ve left myself a little run down, and hence the onset of the lurgy. Listless, lifeless but not, I’m afraid to say, snotless.
All the jobs I had pencilled-in for myself have gone by the wayside:- painting the spare room, washing the car and trimming the Incumbent’s bush will all have to wait til I feel a little better. The aforementioned pigs have been left un-sheared, I’ve been both unable and unwilling to milk the chickens, and the cows will have to go pluck themselves. I may yet to have got the hang of this country lark, but I’m beginning to wonder if all this mucking around with livestock may have led to my current predicament. Have I contracted Cow Flu? A touch of Foot and Mouth maybe ? The goats look mangey enough to be capable of spreading anything to anyone. That’s the last time I eat any of them, lo-carb or no lo-carb.
All this couldn’t have come at a worse time. This weekend saw two of the more notable events of the year so far: The release of True Grit at the cinema and Long Lane U14 ladies vrs Tottenham Hotspur U14 in the regional final of the London Cup. I was due to go to both, but could attend neither.
(If you don’t want to know the result of the football look away now)
Reports from the ground (Dogshit Park North) indicate that my youngest daughter played a blinder (god, she reminds me of me) although she was cautioned for telling a team-mate to “fuck off and shut up” (she also reminds me of her mother) but however well they played the plucky South Londoners succumbed to their larger North London rivals by 4 lucky goals to 1.
Rooster Cogburn and friends will have to wait til next week, though I already know the result of that one.
So since Friday afternoon I’ve been confined to barracks in my best pyjamas and silk dressing gown, plonked in front of the Six Nations Rugby, Boadwalk Empire and anything else which tv land wanted to send me. All of this without bothering the scorers in the booze unit scorebox, as I couldn’t even taste a pint of beer if you laced it with Cillit Bang. Nosebuds and tastebuds kaput, this was one miserable weekend.
Looking out the window, down the track to the lane at the bottom of the lower paddock, I could see whom the Daily Telegraph would describe as “revellers” as they made their way to-and-from the Liniment and Poultice and the other pubs, drinking my beer as they went on their merry way. What a depressing sight they made. The fire in my throat was screaming out to be doused yet the only liquid nearby was that filling my nasal passages. And I wasn’t about to drink that.
Then some light relief from an unexpected quarter. One of the younger human mammals who inhabit these here parts announced he and his hooded pals were making their inaugural visit to a pub (to much sniggering from the back of the potting shed).
“Well just make sure you buy a round, don’t go and buy individual drinks.”
“What do you mean round?” he asked.
Oh dear, we were starting from a low point. This might be fun.
“Well before you get to the bar, make up your minds who’s turn it is and he then buys a drink for all of you.That’s known as a round Then you take it in turns through the night to each buy a round. Don’t each buy your own drink. It’s a dead give-away. You’ll look like students” I waited for the information to be processed. He was clearly at too early a stage to introduce him to Greaves’ Rules.
“How many of you?” I enquired.
“Oh, that means you’ll have six rounds then. Six drinks. Six Pints”
“Yeah!?!” he barked, indignantly, spotting the doubt in my voice that he and his mates would make it past three.
“Ok. Good” if he was happy, I was happy, while secretly imagining the state of them all rolling up the hill later.
He continued with his line of questioning. There was stuff that had clearly been worrying him.
“Now when you go into a pub…”
“…er…y..e..s” I was dreading what was coming.
“What do you ask for?”
“What do you ask for to drink? Or is there a list?”
I leaned over, collected my menthol inhaler from the table and took a huge blast on it. Partly because my nose was blocked and partly to give me time to compose myself.
“Yes…YES (coughing), YES, there’s a list. Ask for the beer list. From the Biertre-D, as he’s known”.
My little friend could tell I was struggling not to laugh out loud.
“No, come on, really what do you ask for ?”
“Just ask for six pints of lager, and if they ask you which one, ask them what they have. Then pick one”
This conversation went on for some little time before Doc, Happy, Bashful and the rest turned up to collect Dopey to take him to the pub. I, in my role as Sneezy was left to my little childish chuckley thoughts on the sofa. Wouldn’t it be great if pubs really did have a Beer Waiter ? Anyway, suffice to say our would-be debutant drinkers fell at the first hurdle, having been refused entry to any pub in the area on the grounds that most of them looked 12 years old. Oh well, it’s one of those rites-of-passage things that happens to us all. I suppose they ended up asking some bigger boy to buy them a litre of cider out of an off license, or stood on shadowy street corners smoking Jamaican Woodbines.
And now, as I’m on my way to making a full recovery, and as it’s Valentine’s Night, I shall treat the Incumbent to a warm bottle of light ale in The Shovel. I might even let her have first pick from the Pork Scratchings list. If she behaves herself.